Using Life Structures for Stress Relief

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When life coaches talk about "structures," they're generally referring to the systems in our lives that are used to create a recurring task or process. Classes, routines, and protocols are all life structures that help us get things done.

If you have a game night with a group of friends, for instance, it's a fun evening. Make a plan to get together once a month and decide who will bring the games, food, and drinks, and you've created a life structure.

Life structures can help you maintain a balanced life because, once you've put the work into creating a structure around an activity, it becomes much easier to maintain this activity in the future. This balanced life is also one of less stress.

How Life Structures Can Lower Stress

Life structures can cut down our list of stressors by helping us create and maintain positive habits. This is important because habits are what drive many of the activities in our lives, whether we realize it or not. 

Maybe you are in the habit of checking social media when you wake up, for instance. You instantly go to your phone or tablet to see what is going on with friends and family. Before you know it, you've spent an hour getting sucked into their drama, increasing your stress.

Now imagine that you get into the habit of working out when you wake up instead. You go for a walk, head to the gym, or exercise in your home. This allows you to spend that same amount of time building your resilience toward stress versus creating more.

Deciding to spend your time this way on any given day can bring benefits, for sure. Building this action into a habit can make these benefits long-term, without requiring as much energy to keep the action going. The habit becomes automatic.

Life Structures That Provide Stress Relief

What types of life structures can you include in your life to lower your levels of stress? There are a few.

Join an Exercise Class

Exercise classes are life structures that can help you maintain health and wellness by reducing your risk of disease. They also improve your brain function, increase your energy, and enhance your concentration, enabling you to better handle the stressors in your life.

Check out exercise classes being offered at local gyms and fitness facilities or check out one of the many classes offered online. Sign up for one or two that sound interesting to you. Don't be afraid to try something new either. You may find a form of exercise that you truly enjoy or that really boosts your mood.

You can also create life structures to better support this stress-relieving habit. The act of keeping a gym bag in your car, for instance, can be a life structure that streamlines your ability to fit regular workouts into your schedule.

Create a Weekly Menu Plan

Have you ever felt stressed by what you're going to cook your family for dinner? Sure, you want to provide them tasty food, but when you open your fridge, there's nothing that can be transformed into an actual meal. Now what?

Taking the time to create a weekly meal plan can help relieve this daily stress. Meal planning is also stress-relieving in that it gives you the opportunity to come up with healthier choices, which is important because obesity and stress are highly connected.

Try this: Every Saturday, sit down and create a menu for the upcoming week. Then go to the grocery store and pick up all of the items you need. You can make the process easier yet by using Sunday to pre-prepare all of your meals for the week.

Develop a Regular Housekeeping Routine

Housekeeping is one activity with which many people have a love-hate relationship. They love how a freshly cleaned house looks, smells, and feels, but the act of cleaning is a hated chore. The problem is that a messy house can increase your stress.

Instead of spending an entire weekend day disinfecting surfaces, getting rid of dust, and sweeping or vacuuming the floors, spread these activities out. Assign one activity each night of the week, allowing you to keep your house clean without losing a whole day.

Alternatively, you may also consider hiring a weekly housekeeper. Establishing this life structure is another way to eliminate mess without detracting from activities you enjoy more, such as spending time with family and friends.

Establish a Nightly Sleep Routine

A regular sleep routine helps structure our day and also leads to many other physical and mental benefits.

Whether it’s reading a book, taking a bath, meditating, practicing restorative yoga, stretching, listening to soothing music, or journaling before bedtime, establishing a nightly routine can help calm your body and mind as you transition from wakefulness to sleep.

Sticking to a consistent sleep/wake schedule, or going to sleep and waking at the same time each day, is also an important part of a healthy sleep routine. 

3 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Physical activity reduces stress.

  2. Tomiyama A. Stress and obesity. Ann Rev Psychol. 2018;70:703-718. doi:10.1146/annurev-psych-010418-102936

  3. Cornwell E. Social resources and disordered living conditions: Evidence from a national sample of community-residing older adults. Res Aging. 2014;36(4):399-430. doi:10.1177/0164027513497369

By Elizabeth Scott, PhD
Elizabeth Scott, PhD is an author, workshop leader, educator, and award-winning blogger on stress management, positive psychology, relationships, and emotional wellbeing.